by Denee Busby, May 26, 2015

How Does Simulation Play Into “The Future of Making Things”

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There is an idea that echoes in the hearts and minds of many best in class executives and decision makers in the world of manufacturing… The Maker Movement. What does it all mean? And how do things like virtual testing and digital prototyping play into this idea? Well for that answer you’ll have to peel back the onion a bit.

The Maker Movement was born from many different yet aligning ideas. Lean Manufacturing, Lean NPI Processes, Simulation Driven Engineering, and Disruptive Innovation are just a few of the ideas that spawned this movement. Born out of the necessity to improve quality and capture more market share while at the same time reducing the overhead of traditional processes, the movement has sparked an evolution in the way companies define their future. Many companies are embracing the fact that collaboration is now a part of the definition of innovation and have decided to abandon their traditional ideas and embrace technological innovations to meet their new needs.

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The idea of “Concept to prototype to redesign” is dying with the growth of virtual testing. Why you may ask? The costs related to raw materials has sky-rocketed. To support several iterations at these climbing rates without confidence of performance or information related to potential failure is a money draining activity. Industries like consumer products and electronics have such aggressive pressures by their customers to innovate they must rework the way their problems are being solved.

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While in line for the iPhone 6, a blogger commented on his experience with a friend’s iPhone 6, and within minutes his comment had 1500 views and about 20 comments, all related to whether or not they were influenced by his experience. That real time feedback, I am certain, was used by Apple to drive changes in the future of the product. Virtual testing can help you peer into the future and predict performance, give you information to improve quality and reduce the cost related to mimicking real world environments. Questions like: “How long will it last?”, “How can I reduce weight without the quality suffering?”, or simply “Will it break?” can all be answered with simulation, which ties into the Future of Making things by supporting a lean rework cycle. One can eliminate several conceptual ideas by testing real world performance under critical loads, testing different material types to reduce overall cost, predict the lifespan, and identify ways to improve quality before even one single prototype is made.

Combing the power of virtual testing with other Future of Making Things tools, like rapid prototyping and tools that maintain the history of a product, begins to raise the level of productivity and decrease the time to market by drastic numbers.

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